A Fairy Tale, But Grimm
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: David Johnson
Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Virginia Madsen, Max Irons, Julie Christie, Shiloh Fernandez
image from news-leader.com
RANT: I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the Regal theater that I frequent in Westbury, NY is installing an IMAX theater which will be operational in April. The bad news is that I was fortunate enough to sit next to a woman today that kindly asked if the movie just started, then proceeded to check her iPhone every 10 minutes throughout the entire film!
SYNOPSIS: Valerie and her fellow townspeople must guard against the attacks of the werewolf that stalks the village at the height of the full "blood" moon.
Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke creates a fantasy tale based on the classic Little Red Riding Hood children's story. Written by Orphan scribe David Johnson, Red Riding Hood, is the current teenage equivalent of the fairy tale. The story is so much a Twilight spin-off, Red Riding Hood could have been a medieval prequel - without the pesky shimmery vampires to contend with.
We follow Valerie (Amanda Seyfried), a young woman with desires to be with with a strapping young woodcutter, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). Just as they are set to run away together, the village bell sounds for everyone to return the village. They are mortified to find Valerie's older sister murdered by a werewolf that the townsfolk have been placating for 20 years with full moon animal offerings. A search party is formed to track down the wolf and kill it, but the father of Henry (Max Irons), a young man slated to an arranged marriage to Valerie, is killed. Soon Solomon (Gary Oldman), a renowned slayer of witches, wolves and other creatures is dispatched to the town to discover the truth and destroy the beast.
I enjoy my dark fairy tales to remain dark. All of the teenage angst in monster movies these days leaves me cold and empty. Don't get me wrong, every slasher film needs plenty of horny teenagers to fill in the formula. But the classics of werewolves, vampires and mummies are better left to adult sexual tension. Red Riding Hood seems so close in style to Twilight with the forlorn love triangle between Valerie, Peter and Henry, that every scene drips with obvious distracting comparisons. Only the bare ab muscles were left off camera.
Red Riding Hood does have fine moments. First is the sometimes successful cinematography in creating a surreal spooky mood, especially as Valerie walks around the spiked trees and foggy ground on the way to grandmother's house on the edge of the dark forest. Second is the determined hunter that is embodied by Gary Oldman. Valerie's vibrant red cloak stood in stark contrast with the somber, washed out hues of the village, the dark forest and the wolf's lair. Lastly, is the actual mystery that surrounds the town and Solomon's pursuit of the truth. Who is the werewolf? Most of the intrigue in the film rested on following Valerie piecing together the clues as to who the werewolf really was in human form.
Since I am not a diehard fan of the Twilight series (although I continue to see the sequel in hope of a better film), Red Riding Hood did not amaze or fully entertain me. I did not look at my watch to see if the movie was close to being over, but I might have close had it not been for the redeeming acting of Seyfried and Oldman and the overall look of the film.
One final flaw - any medieval period film production should have spent at least a few days trying to find suitable accents for its players. Like The Eagle before it, I lose respect for a movie when everything is so Americanized.
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